Ministers 'failing to deliver' on aerospace enterprise zone

Cardiff airport is at the heart of the aerospace enterprise zone

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Businesses are struggling at an aerospace enterprise zone in the Vale of Glamorgan because of restrictions at a flagship site, one entrepreneur claims.

Sion Llewelyn set up Avalon Aviation at St Athan airfield to import and sell light aircraft.

But he claims restricted flying times are preventing firms from making the most of development opportunities.

Economy Minister Edwina Hart said plans were in place to address concerns.

Start Quote

Businesses are finding it very difficult to get off the ground - mind the pun”

End Quote Sion Llewelyn Avalon Aviation

The Cardiff Airport and St Athan zone is one of seven areas across Wales where businesses are offered incentives with the aim of generating jobs and boosting the economy.

Avalon Aviation was set up by Mr Llewelyn when the enterprise zone was established two years ago, assisted by a grant from the Welsh government.

But he claims that restricted flying times to and from the airfield pose a significant problem for aviation companies at the site.

"We're struggling, as are a number of the businesses struggling here, because of what seems to be an unhappy relationship between the traditional use of this airfield by the Ministry of Defence and the RAF and the attempt to bring in new life, new blood and its civilian use as an enterprise zone run by the Welsh government," he said.

"The airfield is still run by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the RAF and they will only operate Monday to Friday 0930 to 1630 - civil service office hours. The reality of business, of course, and especially aviation is that it's a seven day a week operation."

"Businesses are finding it very difficult to get off the ground - mind the pun," added Mr Llewelyn.

'Applauded'

"I think the government need to be applauded for their vision of creating an aviation enterprise zone but their ability to deliver that has to be questioned."

Start Quote

We are absolutely committed to getting this right”

End Quote Edwina Hart Economy Minister

Mrs Hart told assembly members on Thursday that flying hours at St Athan will be extended from next month.

Giving evidence to the enterprise committee she said a nine-to-five service would be available from Monday to Saturday with aircraft access in and out of the airfield on Sundays also available on request.

"We acknowledge there's been difficulty for the businesses there but I think we've also got to acknowledge that it is very difficult taking things through sometimes with the MoD which is a vast organisation in terms of the chain of command," the minister told AMs.

"We are absolutely committed to getting this right and hopefully now from April this will be got right and businesses will be very happy and we hope to attract other businesses."

Last October, First Minister Carwyn Jones said almost 2,000 jobs have been created across the seven enterprise zones, with a further 6,500 in the pipeline.

Bruce Dickinson at Cardiff Aviation Rock star Bruce Dickinson has set up an aircraft maintenance base at St Athan

Opposition parties say the government has not released enough information about the aims and performance of enterprise zones.

Plaid Cymru economy spokesman Rhun ap Iorwerth said there has been too much "secrecy".

"We're not getting the information that we need from government at this point in time," he said.

"If you have strategies in place, if you have public money being pumped into these enterprise zones, we need to be making sure we're getting value for money."

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "The minister for economy, science and transport has already published performance indicators relating to enterprise zones and has made a commitment to publish aggregated jobs figures in due course."

Sunday Politics Wales is on BBC One Wales at 11:00 GMT on Sunday, 23 March

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